Welcome to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research!

Willkommen am Leibniz-Institut für Zoo- und Wildtierforschung (IZW)! Deutsche Version der IZW-Webseite.

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) is an interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to developing the scientific basis for novel approaches to wildlife conservation.

In the current era of the Anthropocene, virtually all ecosystems in the world are subjected to man-made impacts. As yet, it is not possible to predict the response of wildlife to the ever-increasing global change. Why are some wildlife species threatened by anthropogenic change, while others persist or even thrive in modified, degenerated or novel habitats?

To answer this and related questions, the IZW conducts basic and applied research across different scientific disciplines. We study the diversity of life histories and evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, of free-ranging and captive wildlife species, and their interactions with people and their environment in Germany, Europe and worldwide.

The IZW is a member of the Leibniz Association and the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

Cabinet Secretary Hon Najib Balala (Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenia) is watching the procedure Foto: Ami Vitale
Cabinet Secretary Hon Najib Balala (Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenia) is watching the procedure Foto: Ami Vitale

Newly created embryo nourishes hope for the survival of the northern white rhino

Nairobi, Kenya - In August 2019 a team of scientists and conservationists broke new ground in saving the northern white rhinoceros from extinction. They harvested eggs from the two remaining females, artificially inseminated those using frozen sperm from deceased males and created two viable northern white rhino embryos. With great support from the Kenyan Government and in the presence of Hon Najib Balala, – Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife – the team repeated the procedure on December 17, 2019, and was able to create a new embryo over Christmas. This significantly increases the chances of successfully producing offspring. The procedure has proven to be safe and reproducible, and can be performed on a regular basis before the animals become too old. Preparations for the next steps of the northern white rhino rescue mission are underway.

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Prof. Hildebrandt named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” for achievements in assisted reproduction

Since 2012 the Giant Panda Global Awards honour conservation work for the Giant Panda all over the world. Awardees include individual pandas, offspring as well as zoological gardens, veterinary teams, keepers and other personalities with significant achievements in giving these charismatic animals a future on our planet. In the 2019 edition of the awards Prof Dr Thomas B. Hildebrandt was named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” (Gold Award) for remarkable achievements in applying assisted reproduction technologies and imaging techniques in giant panda. 

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Lynx Cubs, Photo by Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme
Lynx Cubs, Photo by Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme

Corpus luteum cells of cats successfully cultivated and comprehensively characterized – another milestone in the elucidation of the phenomenon of long-lived corpus lutea in lynxes

The reproduction of lynxes is highly mysterious. Unlike other wild cats, most lynxes are only receptive for a few days once a year. As scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have already shown in the past, this is a consequence of the long life of corpus lutea in the ovaries which prevents further ovulation during the course of the year. The Berlin team has now achieved another breakthrough in solving the puzzle: they were able to isolate several cell types of corpus luteum from domestic cat tissue and characterise their function in detail with the help of cell cultures. The new method can also be applied to endangered felids such as the Iberian lynx and could advance our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of the longevity of corpus lutea in lynxes. The ultimate goal in practical terms is to induce ovulation with the help of corpus luteum hormones. This would enhance the support for the reproduction of the highly endangered Iberian lynx in breeding programmes.

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Preferred commuting routes of common noctule bats above illuminated Berlin (Image: Leibniz-IZW/: ISS047-E-29989 courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)
Preferred commuting routes of common noctule bats above illuminated Berlin (Image: Leibniz-IZW/: ISS047-E-29989 courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)

Berlin’s bright sky isn’t a bat’s thing

People can hardly imagine a city without night-time street lighting. But how do nocturnal animals such as bats respond to the illuminated urban landscape? In a recent study, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), together with German and international colleagues, equipped common noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) with mini GPS transmitters and recorded their trajectories in the sky above Berlin. They show that common noctules avoid brightly lit, built-up areas. The metropolitan area of Berlin is therefore mostly unsuitable as a habitat for bats. Dark corridors such as city forests, parks or watercourses, on the other hand, are of great importance for commuting and foraging. The results are published in the journal "Landscape Ecology".

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White rhino with offspring in South Africa (Photo: Robynne Prinsloo)
White rhino with offspring in South Africa (Photo: Robynne Prinsloo)

Southern white rhinos are threatened by incest and habitat fragmentation – targeted measures can help to avert this danger

The fragmentation of natural habitats by fences and human settlements is threatening the survival of the white rhinoceros. It prevents dispersal from the family group and leads to mating among close relatives. Additionally female rhinoceros favour individual males for mating over others and sire several offspring with the same partner over consecutive breeding periods. These factors lead to a high degree of inbreeding. The results come from the largest scientific study to date on the sexual preferences of white rhinos, published in the journal "Evolutionary Applications". The scientists propose specific measures to ensure the long term survival of the species.

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